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Pollo Al Pastor Recipe From Rick Martinez’s ‘Mi Cocina’

Pollo Al Pastor Recipe From Rick Martinez's 'Mi Cocina'

The regionality of Mexican cuisine is the backbone of Mi Cocina, and Martinez jumps from the winding oceanside cliffs of Oaxaca where he eats whole fish on the beach, to the mountainous rainforests of Veracruz complete with indigenous white mole thickened with masa. Each page and subsequent recipe is a new and delicious recipe, certain to satisfy the hunger for any reader with a pang of wanderlust.

Although Martinez—who is a former senior food editor at Bon Appetit and hosts food and travel show Pruébalo for Babish Culinary Universe—has had professional culinary training and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cooking, he devoted his time in Mexico as a space for learning. Everywhere he went, instead of ordering the most popular dish, he would ask chefs across Mexico about their favorite dish to make and serve.

“The food I love eating the most, whether it’s at a restaurant or somebody’s house, or from a cookbook, I want to taste the cook,” Martinez explains. “I want to be able to understand what motivates them—what is their passion? What are they excited about? What ingredients do they love?”

Naturally, Martinez writes in this way, too. His cookbook has a section devoted to what he stocks his pantry with—from capers to light beer to an assortment of chilies, both dry and fresh. Each recipe in the cookbook’s eight chapters is paired with a story, whether it be a mouthwatering treatise on garlicky fried lobster tacos, a fascinating history on chorizo verde, or a soliloquy about swimming in the ocean all afternoon following bowls of zippy ceviche sure to incite jealousy.

The recipes within Mi Cocina are so diverse and colorful, it’s hard for Martinez to pick a favorite. But if he had to, it would be his pollo al pastor (which he concedes shares the number one spot with tacos gobernador). “The pollo al pastor was a hard one to get right,” Martinez begins. “It’s difficult to replicate the flavor in a dish that has a very specific cooking method.” (Al pastor, typically, is cooked on a rotating spit, ensuring there are speckles of char and deep caramelization.)

Martinez’s version is made in the oven, which is why when he finally nailed the flavor down, he was overjoyed and deservedly filled with pride. “One of my cheats for anything that I want to impart a smokey flavor, and I think this is a great tip for home cooks, is to use something with some smoke built into it. In this case, I use the chili chipotles, which are smoked jalapeños.”

The aroma of chipotle peppers provides the signature smokiness of al pastor, without a rotating spit. That, paired with agave syrup, mimics the caramelized burnt edges. The result, in Martinez’s words, is “the ultimate, absolute most incredible chicken you’ll ever eat.” And if you don’t want to bake it, Martinez has had great success grilling the chicken using a gas stovetop or over coals with indirect heat.